Top LDS Church events of 2013: Missionaries, temples and milestones (11 items)
A dramatic surge in the missionary force, major church milestones and humanitarian aid efforts were among the noteworthy stories involving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2013.
This past year, the church implemented new ways to share the gospel through technology, increased its digital outreach and responded to natural disasters around the world. It continued to adjust to overall growth, build temples and provide opportunities for its members to serve and improve lives.
Here is a look at the top stories making headlines in 2013.
Contributing: Joseph Walker, Trent Toone, Tad Walch, R. Scott Lloyd, Gerry Avant, Sarah Weaver, Jason Swensen, Jesse Hyde, Ryan Morgenegg, Rachel Sterzer, Abby Stevens, Christine Rappleye, Doug Robinson
1 of 11. Missionary developments
“What a tremendous and inspiring response we have witnessed!” President Monson said. “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls to him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and he will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill his work.”
Hastening the work has required the church to expand other missionary-related functions.
In order to compensate for the increase in missionaries, the church established 58 new missions around the globe and announced plans to expand the Provo Missionary Training Center. Benemerito de Las America, a church-owned high school in Mexico City, was closed and transformed into a missionary training center that opened in June.
In July, updated web pages reflected changes to dress and grooming requirements for full-time missionaries.
In light of the recent surge, the First Presidency sent out a letter encouraging members to donate “regularly and generously” to the church’s missionary fund. The letter was read in many worship services June 2.
Also in June, church leaders spoke via satellite to a global gathering of missionaries and church officers and presented innovative approaches to missionary work, including the use of the Internet by full-time missionaries and opening local meetinghouses to guided tours.
In September, a press release was posted on the LDS Newsroom website in response to news reports about the deaths of several young LDS missionaries. Elder David F. Evans, executive director of the LDS Church’s Missionary Department, said, "the loss of even one missionary is far too many."
The release went on to read that "gratefully, these occurrences are rare, and missionary work is inherently safe. The mortality rate for missionaries is significantly less than those in their same age group in the general population."
2 of 11. Monson family
During his remarks in the Sunday morning session of the October conference, President Monson paid tribute to his wife, Frances J. Monson, who died on May 17.
“Tomorrow (Oct. 7, 2013) would have been our 65th wedding anniversary," he said. "She was the love of my life, my trusted confidant and my closest friend. To say I miss her does not begin to convey the depth of my feelings. … Through all these years, I have felt nothing but the full and complete support of my sweet companion. Countless are the sacrifices she made so that I could fulfill my calling. Never did I hear a word of complaint from her as I was often required to spend days and sometimes weeks away from her and from our children. She was an angel, indeed.”
3 of 11. Digital outreach
The enhanced pages added rigorous historical background from church historians and, for the first time, historians outside the church. The pages also include links to information on other websites, another first for LDS.org.
The church also launched several other important websites in 2013 — OvercomingPornography.org, MormonsAndGays.org and MormonsAndChina.org. It also posted a robust religious freedom topics page and a "Support Religious Freedom" Facebook page.
A major upgrade to the church's Gospel Library mobile app, with more than 1.5 million active users, also made news.
4 of 11. Humanitarian aid and relief efforts
After Cyclone Evan caused damage in Samoa, missionaries assisted in the January clean-up effort. Church members also volunteered to help clean up areas affected by Hurricane Sandy in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Hundreds of Latter-day Saints and missionaries donned yellow “Helping Hands” T-shirts in February to assist in cleaning up after a tornado damaged parts of Southern Mississippi.
The church provided aid to those affected by flooding in La Plata, Argentina, in April.
Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization, announced a donation of more than one million pounds of food by the church in May.
The church provided supplies and volunteers to support communities in Oklahoma affected by five tornadoes that struck near Oklahoma City at the beginning of the summer.
Church members in Colorado Springs, Colo., put together a clothing drive to help evacuees after a wildfire destroyed 509 homes and burned 14,000 acres in June. Assistance was also given in response to flooding in the state in September.
More than 100,000 people were killed in flood-related incidents following a September storm in Mexico. Members and missionaries assisted in shoveling mud, delivering food and assembling hygiene kits.
Amid earthquakes and hurricanes, the church continues to do extensive work in the Philippines. In September, two typhoons, Typhoon Lubuya and Typhoon Maring, caused flooding in 16 provinces and hundreds of cities and villages, including Manila. Some 260,000 families, or 1.2 million people, including 1,150 Latter-day Saint families, were displaced by the storms, according to a Church welfare report.
A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Philippines in late October.
Around the same time, the church reached out to government leaders and other partner organizations in India after Cyclone Phailin struck the nation on Oct. 12. One of the worst storms to hit India in the past 14 years, Cyclone Phailin caused at least 25 deaths and the evacuation of some 800,000 people.
The church continues to assist with relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan, which impacted more than 100,000 Latter-day Saints in November. The United Nations estimated that more than 660,000 people were displaced by the violent storm. A vast network of LDS volunteers continues to restore power and running water while helping people in the recovery effort. Seven of 21 church missions in the Philippines were impacted by the storm, but all the missionaries were safe, according to a statement. A Deseret News article detailed the incredible survival story of 10 sister missionaries amid the dangerous rising waters of the typhoon.
5 of 11. Temples
In his opening remarks for April’s general conference, President Monson announced plans to build temples in Cedar City, Utah, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In August, President Monson joined with other Mormon and community leaders to break ground for the church’s temple in Hartford, Conn. A few weeks later, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the church’s Presidency of the Seventy presided over the groundbreaking of the Fort Collins Temple, the second temple to be built in Colorado.
The church also released a new temple film in August.